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A Holy Week Message from President Matthew Harrison

Holy Week and Easter 2015

Dear Fellow Laborers in the Lord’s Vineyard,

The world must surely think we’ve lost our marbles when, in the liturgy for Good Friday, the words ring out: “We adore You, O Lord, and we praise and glorify Your resurrection. For behold, by the wood of the cross joy has come into all the world.”

How true! On that day of deepest darkness, humankind finally got its hands on God. We grabbed hold of God in the flesh, nailed Him to a tree and told Him to get out of our world and leave us “the hell” alone. To this day, our every sin still demands the same — to be left alone in hell. Not much cause for joy there.

Ah, but even more true, on that day of deepest darkness, our God was loving the world, loving you and me and all who fail Him again and again. He was loving us by giving His only Son into that horrid death so that our hate-filled, violent, rebellious race might be pardoned and given a life without end in His kingdom.

If you’ve been following along in the Treasury of Daily Prayer or with the Daily Lectionary, you know that we just read again the story of Joseph in Genesis. What light that whole story sheds on the events we’re about to celebrate when we see in Joseph a picture of our Lord! He was hated by his brothers, stripped, betrayed and sold, disowned and forgotten. And why? Precisely so that God could, through Joseph, bring great blessing to those wretched brothers, keeping them alive in famine, providing for their families. “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive” (Gen. 50:20).

As with Joseph, so with Jesus. Hence the miracle of Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter! It’s true that we meant it for evil. But God Himself was at work through it all, reconciling the world to Himself, not counting our sins against us as He made Him who had no sin to be sin for us. And come resurrection morn, He proclaims to all the world that its sins are forgiven, forgotten, gone! The resurrection cries out: “His sacrifice has been accepted — for you and for all. So rejoice!”

Yes, beloved, through the wood of the cross, joy truly has come into all the world: the joy of sins’ forgiveness, death’s defeat, love’s unconquerable triumph. The cross is our God saying: “You can’t make Me hate you! I love you and forgive you in the blood of My precious Son!”

I know how busy the days ahead are as you work to bring blessings to the people of God. But don’t forget to savor the joy of the cross yourself — to join the people of God in kneeling before the Crucified One who yet lives, who still is the master of working all things (including suffering and hardship) to bring blessing to His own, and who will surely appear again in glory.

To Him, to our Lord of joy, be all glory and honor! Remember me, please, in your prayers during these days, even as I remember you in mine!

Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison
President, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod




Religious Liberty: Free to be Faithful 


Update from the President


Dear brothers and sisters,

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, when the Church begins her slow and measured journey to the cross, where we see Jesus: the Savior who hangs — bloodied and scourged — for us. It is a time of reflection and repentance for me and also for you, for all of us as the LCMS, and for the Church throughout the world.

And yet in the midst of our dusty Lenten ashes, we also look forward to Easter, when our Lord is raised from the dead, triumphing over sin and Satan, all for us. Yes, even during our Lenten fast, joy abounds!

That’s why I want to share two important things with you, so that you may see and know that our Lord is at work in and among each one of us, and is using us collectively as the LCMS to bear witness to Him.

First, our Synod treasurer, Jerry Wulf, shared at our Board of Directors meeting last weekend that together as the Synod we have reduced internal borrowing of restricted funds to cash flow operations from some $16 million four years ago to zero. You read that correctly. Zero! And we’re not stopping there. To get our financial house in order, we have also achieved a three-month cash reserve for operations, which is the minimum for a responsible non-profit.

Second, I’m delighted to announce that we are closing in on doubling the number of career missionaries internationally, which is a goal set by the Synod in convention in 2013. We are working to find a measured pace that will ensure that a sound system of missionary care remains in place but, by God’s grace, will also enable us to continue to add men and women, lay and clergy, to our worldwide mission team. The international moment unfolding worldwide before us as the LCMS is truly astounding!

So, thank you. Thank you for taking part in getting our finances in order so that we may be hearty stewards of all our Lord has to give. And thank you for being a part of our church’s mission work, that our fellow members may go to the ends of the earth to bear witness to Christ to those who have not yet heard that they are loved and whole on account of His death and resurrection.

Thank you. Thank you for your faithfulness to God’s Word and to the Lutheran Confessions. Lay people, thank you for loving your pastors. Pastors, thank you for loving your people.

Thank you for living boldly as the baptized children, loved by God, that you are. And thank you for the privilege of serving you. I covet your prayers and promise you mine, this Lenten season and always.

Under the cross,

Pastor Matt Harrison
President, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod


Prayers for peace - prayers for Ferguson

Grant peace, we pray, in mercy, Lord:
Peace in our time, O send us!
For there is none on earth but You,
None other to defend us.
You only, Lord, can fight for us. Amen (Lutheran Service Book 777).

All-loving Father, look in Your bountiful compassion on Ferguson, Mo., and the greater St. Louis community.

Grant wisdom and guidance to all our civil leaders and bless the efforts of our law enforcement to keep order and to bring a sense of security and calm.

Grant protesters wisdom to express their disappointment and sorrow with respect and decorum.

Rid our land of all conflict and fear between various groups, and help us all to live together as Your beloved children, through Him who truly is our peace, even Jesus, whose blood has reconciled us to Yourself and made us one family.

We ask it in His strong name. Amen.

More here on Higher Things 



Supreme Court Ruling Emboldens Us to Continue to Carry On


Supreme Court Ruling 
Emboldens Us to Continue to Carry On

Two years ago, I sat on a panel before Congress, testifying to the importance of religious liberty in America today.

It seems like a long time ago.

Since then, we have seen and heard a steady stream of news, from the church and the culture, about the Health and Human Services’ mandate and the Affordable Care Act, abortifacients and the conscience, religious freedoms and what this means for women.

Thankfully, the wait is over. The Supreme Court has ruled, and the verdict is in: In a landmark case, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of religious liberty, specifically in regard to closely held corporations (those with a small number of shareholders and offering no public stock, such as corporations that are family-owned, not operated by boards).

While we rejoice in this strong upholding of religious freedom, this decision does not signal an end to this discussion. It simply emboldens us carry on, doing what we do best as Christians: praying, confessing the faith and living it out in our daily callings.

We pray that Americans, whose consciences are burdened because they have been forced to violate their religious beliefs, would know God’s comfort and forgiveness.

We confess that life, which begins at conception, is a gift from God and ought to be held in the highest regard in this country.

We live, knowing that the First Amendment guarantees us not only the right to worship, but also to practice our faith as Lutheran citizens of this great nation, serving our neighbor where the Lord has placed us.

We do all of this, even as we rejoice with the Greens of Hobby Lobby, with the Hahns of Conestoga Wood Specialties and with our millions of brothers and sisters in the United States who believe just as strongly in the religious liberties guaranteed in our Constitution.

Today we are thankful for this step toward maintaining the integrity of our religious freedoms inherent in the First Amendment, but we will also remain ever mindful. The issue is and will continue to be purely and simply about religious freedom.

And so we pray. We confess. We live.

“We fought for a free conscience in this country,” I told the committee two years ago, “and we won’t give it up without a fight.”

I meant that, and I pray you do too.

The Rev. Matthew C. Harrison
President, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

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